Loovens: We are fit to keep heat on Rangers

Dutch defender believes Celtic's diminishing injury list will help keep up pressure on rivals

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The Independent Football

Glenn Loovens insists the Celtic players will ignore what is happening at Rangers to concentrate solely on keeping the pressure on their Old Firm rivals at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

The Parkhead club were at one stage 15 points behind Rangers albeit with two games in hand. But with the leaders stuttering and Celtic recovering their form by winning their last five League games, that gap has been reduced to four points, making the next derby at Parkhead on December 28 all the more intriguing.

However, Loovens, 28, claims Celtic are simply looking to keep their good form going. "I think that's football for you," the Dutchman said. "We don't try to look too much to them. We just focus on our own performances as we can't affect what they are doing. I think we need to look at ourselves and make sure we win every game and try to put pressure on them.

"You are always happy if they drop points but we can't affect what they're doing, so we are better concentrating on our own performances, making sure we keep winning and putting the pressure on them. We have to treat each game as a final and make sure we win it. Then we can look to the next game."

The former Cardiff defender has played in the last three games after recovering from a hamstring complaint and is glad to be away from a treatment room that has all too often been overcrowded this season.

Emilio Izaguirre, Scott Brown, Kelvin Wilson, Mark Wilson, Kris Commons, Charlie Mulgrew, Mo Bangura, Joe Ledley and Thomas Rogne have all been out for various lengths of time to the frustration of Hoops boss Neil Lennon and the Celtic fans.

"It's horrible to be injured," said Loovens. "You usually have long, lonely hours but not this time as we have had that many injuries – at one time we ran out of beds. There is nothing better than to be out there on the pitch and doing the things you love to do. And I think if you are injured you train harder than when you are fit, as you have to be in early and go home late.

"You have your own gym sessions to do, your stuff outside, your pool sessions, it's just really boring. But it's important to do all the right things as well to make sure you come back stronger.

"I just want to keep doing well and keep my place in the team and stay fit. And it's good to see more or less most of our players back. That's a good thing because a lot of the boys who were injured will be fresh and ready to go again."

Meanwhile, Celtic will have to wait until tomorrow before Uefa's disciplinary body meet to discuss accusations of illicit chanting during their home win over Rennes on 3 November. The Parkhead club were expecting the complaint, made by the Strathclyde Police match commander to the Uefa match delegate following the Europa League Group I game, to be addressed today.

However, Uefa have an appeals body meeting scheduled to take place which means Celtic's case, among others, has been put back 24 hours. Celtic were told on Monday that they had escaped Scottish Premier League action over pro-IRA chanting at their clash with Hibernian on 29 October.

The SPL ruled that the Parkhead club had taken all reasonable action to prevent such unacceptable conduct, which was reported by police. SPL secretary Iain Blair only confirmed Celtic were under investigation after the Uefa action became public.

Meanwhile Rangers' director of football, Gordon Smith, is standing by his views on simulation as Sone Aluko prepares to fight a two-match ban. Smith had been keen to crack down on diving in the game when he was chief executive of the Scottish Football Association; Rangers yesterday rejected a fixed suspension for Aluko, who won a penalty in Saturday's 2-1 win over Dunfermline, and the case will be heard by the SFA's fast-track tribunal today.

Smith said: "If the player is guilty of simulation I would have no problems with him being banned. I didn't bring it in to protect certain people. But I did realise at the time it would have to be clear-cut, that there would be scenarios where players would be mildly touched."

If found guilty, Aluko will miss Clydesdale Bank Premier League games against Hibernian and Inverness. Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston said: "If Aluko does get banned it does not help us in any way. What it would do is help the other teams in the bottom half of the league. This was an occasion when the ref got it wrong. If the ref had seen it the other way Aluko would have been booked and would not get a ban. He should have been yellow carded and that would have been it."